What are the methods used by the catholic church to determine what is morally good or evil?
I assume by method, you mean principles?
A short statement on the subject will be found here:
If it is an offense to God it is a sin… there are levels of sin, mortal or venial…
But first we look to the ten commandments, which encompass so many sins…
Take the first commandment to Love God before all things… It would be a sin to put possessions or anything in front of God… Or making an idol out of something…
The Holy Spirit is the giver of life… So we are supposed to protect life which is part of the command of do not kill… which teaches us alot about what is morally good or evil…I hope this helps…
on and on… We learn these things from an early age as we form a conscious and God speaks to our conscience when we violate Gods commands…so we examine our conscious regularly…
There are too many methods of determining Catholic morality to discuss here.
Principle among them would be revelation and natural law morality.
The former is available only to those who believe. The latter is available to all humans. It is called conscience, and is a part of our human nature which reason is able to discern.
Revelation comes to us primarily through Scriptures and the authority of the Church, which has been determined by the pronouncements of Popes and Councils of the Church.
Theologians are the principal authorities of all doctrine, including morality.
Bishops, priests and deacons are all expected to study theology in considerable depth so as not to promote heretical teachings that could lead us astray. Catholic laity, both men and women, may explore and publish on theological matters, but their authority is limited by the fact that they are not permitted to preach from the altar. This is a good thing, because if they were granted the same presumption of authority as clergy, the Catholic Church would have long ago dissolved into a variety of sects no less disparate than is Protestantism today.
The Magisterium definitively teaches that three sources (or “fonts”) determine whether an act is moral or immoral. The three fonts of morality are discussed at length in the encyclical Veritatis Splendor and more briefly in the CCC.
The CCC has a section on the topic, n. 1749 and following. Excerpts:
I. The Sources of Morality
1750 The morality of human acts depends on: - the object chosen; - the end in view or the intention; - the circumstances of the action. The object, the intention, and the circumstances make up the “sources,” or constitutive elements, of the morality of human acts.
1757 The object, the intention, and the circumstances make up the three “sources” of the morality of human acts.
1755 A morally good act requires the goodness of the object, of the end, and of the circumstances together. An evil end corrupts the action, even if the object is good in itself (such as praying and fasting “in order to be seen by men”). The object of the choice can by itself vitiate an act in its entirety. There are some concrete acts - such as fornication - that it is always wrong to choose, because choosing them entails a disorder of the will, that is, a moral evil.
1756 It is therefore an error to judge the morality of human acts by considering only the **intention **that inspires them or the **circumstances **(environment, social pressure, duress or emergency, etc.) which supply their context. There are acts which, in and of themselves, independently of circumstances and intentions, are always gravely illicit by reason of their object; such as blasphemy and perjury, murder and adultery. One may not do evil so that good may result from it.
**In summary: **if an act has a bad intention (intended end), or a bad moral object (which determines the moral nature of the act), or bad circumstances (when the act is reasonably anticipated to do more harm than good), then the act is a sin. One bad font of morality always means that the act is immoral to choose. Three good fonts are necessary for any act to be moral.
I suspect the question was intended to deliver up a set of methods. Or, at least, distinct criteria in the tone of understanding built with post-modern ears. When you are learned in the fabric of the ethic prescriptions of modern thinking the idea that each individual has a responsibility in doing the good, and “sorting” the evil is inconsonant.
When we pray, “deliver us from evil,” we can overlook the simpler premise upon which this petition is drawn. This would be why the thrill of the kill is so attractive to the video game built psyche. This may also be why a juvenile “westie” might decide that pretending to be a muslim believer can be fun; while not comprehending how well the Azteca gangs will react to this through Hezbollah connections.
So, food for thought, even under the post-modern delusion the consequences of our actions may lead us to recognize the premise of discernment remains valid. Although this does not define even a utilitarian description of sin it does bring the nature of reward and punishment in view - quite differently than Santa’s nice and naughty list.
When that juvenile westie is facing mortality because of impromptu behaviors I would pray that the existence of God may be entertained as a possibility. Actually, I would ask St. Joseph to pray for them.
Often it is better to teach by example. Christ often taught by doing what it was he spoke to bring his disciples to understanding.
It is easy - just sit at the feet of Jesus and listen and do all that He tells you. That really is basically our method.